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A just transition in the meat sector: why, who, and how?

This report sets out routes toward a just transition in the meat sector. It focuses on domestic meat markets in the Global North, maps out key stakeholders and identifies guiding principles for a just transition away from large-scale meat production and consumption.

Citation

Verkuijl, C., Strambo, C., Hocquet, R., Butterfield, R., Achakulwisut, P., Boyland, M., Vega Araújo, J., Bakhtaoui, I., Smit, J., Bastos Lima, M. and Green, J. (2022). A just transition in the meat sector: why, who, and how? SEI report. Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm. http://doi.org/10.51414/sei2022.046

The world’s large and growing appetite for meat and other animal products has profound implications for the climate, air and water quality, biodiversity, human health and animal welfare. There is robust evidence that a shift to more plant-based diets is urgently needed in regions with high levels of animal product consumption, along with a shift away from industrial meat production. However, until recently, few governments prioritized the issue, and many governments actively support industrial animal agriculture through subsidies and other measures. 

Now, motivated by both environmental and public health concerns, policymakers in several countries are adopting regulatory and financial measures to scale down meat production and consumption. While these changes are clearly necessary and long overdue, it is crucial that they be planned carefully and inclusively to ensure a just transition. 

Meat supply chains support many livelihoods, and meat is an important part of many people’s diets and cultural traditions. This means that policies that curtail common production practices, reduce meat output and raise meat prices could have significant impacts across society. A just transition approach can help ensure that both costs and benefits are evenly distributed, and protect the most vulnerable stakeholders. By doing so, it can also help increase public support for the transition. 

The concept of just transitions is well established in the energy sector, but is only starting to be recognized in the context of food production. This report analyses which stakeholders will be most affected by such a transition, and who will play key roles in it, among consumers, farmers, workers, communities and companies.

Guiding principles for a just transition

On the basis of the analysis, the authors set out five principles to guide policymakers in promoting a just transition away from high levels of industrial meat production and consumption, which are summarized below:

  1. Phase down existing policies, programs and fiscal support that lock in industrial meat production and consumption.
  2. Support alternatives to industrially produced meat that are environmentally and socially sustainable, and compatible with animal welfare.
  3. Ensure inclusive and participatory planning processes.
  4. Provide support to stakeholders to help offset impacts of a transition
  5. Address the root causes of injustices in the meat sector.

SEI authors

Cleo Verkuijl
Cleo Verkuijl

Scientist

SEI US

Claudia Strambo
Claudia Strambo

Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Ruth Butterfield
Ruth Butterfield

Centre Director and Senior Research Fellow

SEI Oxford

Ploy Achakulwisut

Research Fellow

SEI US

José Vega Araújo

Research Associate

SEI Latin America

Mairon G. Bastos Lima
Mairon G. Bastos Lima

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Jonathan Green profile picture
Jonathan Green

Senior Researcher

SEI York

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